Spirit was a term used for a variety of distinct but related concepts, creatures and types of being.
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Spirits of the Living and the Dead
If the body of an inhabitant of the Realms died, their spirit usually moved on to become a petitioner of their respective deity, or, in the case of unbelievers, one of the False or the Faithless. Sometimes a curse, the tragic importance of some unfinished business, a will of extreme evil or good, or necromantic magic interfered with this course of events, causing the spirit to remain on Toril and become an undead creature.
In Mulhorand, the Church of Osiris believed that people had two spirits within their bodies, known as ba and ka. The former was said to remain in a mortal's body when it died, while the latter moved on to be judged by Osiris.
The environment was populated with a variety of creatures and forces with a close connection to nature also often collectively called spirits. Among these were counted the races of the dryads and nymphs.
On a similar level, powerful so-called primal spirits were venerated by druids and barbarians, especially on the Moonshae Isles. The Nine Trickster Gods of Omu were also considered primal spirits in the jungles of Chult.
Spirits of Kara-Tur
On the continent of Kara-Tur spirits called kami, or sometimes nature gods, represented all aspects of nature and the elements as well as personifying places. They (together with other beings like oriental dragons) were organized in a great hierarchy called the Celestial Bureaucracy. Consequently, the plane paralleling the lands of Kara-Tur they resided in was named the Spirit World, and the language of the Celestial Court was also called the Spirit Tongue.
The eastern continent also had its share of undead spirits: They were condemned to their status by the Lords of Karma. They were shut up in the Underworld during the day, and terrorized the lands of the living by night. Among them were counted the bajang, bisan, gaki, chu-u, con-tinh, and kuei.
Despite the name, spirit creatures were not necessarily incorporeal; many had flesh and blood.
"Spirit" was also a name used for a type of liquor in the Realms.
- In 1st-edition D&D, according to Deities & Demigods, there was a distinction between the terms "spirit" and "soul". Simply put, souls could be resurrected and spirits could not. Spirits, rather, were reincarnated. Interestingly, humans, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, and half-elves had souls, while elves, orcs, and half-orcs had spirits. This distinction seems to have not been followed in later editions.
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The Nine Immortals
Ai Ch'ing • Chan Cheng • Ch'en Hsiang • Chih Shih • Fa Kuan • Hsing Yong • Kwan Ying • Nung Chiang • Shu Chia
The Lesser Immortals
Jade Ladies • Ladies of Compassion • Lords of Karma • Mad Monkey • Moon Women • Rice Spirits • Spirit Warriors
The Sages • Ancestors • Spirits